Through the first four hundred years after the publication of Utopia, the writers who dared look into the future followed, more or less, in Sir Thomas More’s footsteps. Anti-utopia as a literary genre belongs to the twentieth century. This is not necessarily a cause for jeremiads, invocations of the names of Stalin or Hitler, or other forms of hand-wringing. Just as to some people a pessimist is an informed optimist, anti-utopia may be construed as as an informed Utopia. Philosophically, both genres are traceable to Plato’s Republic. Whether that work should be labeled a Utopia or anti-utopia depends on your taste for benevolent rulers; and what ruler has ever declared himself malevolent?

Ask a more or less educated person about anti-utopia, and three names pop up almost automatically: Orwell, Huxley, and Zamyatin. Of the three, Orwell, with 1984, is undoubtedly the most popular, and for good...

 

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